Subject: Re: the walls have ears
From: Jean Camp <Jean_Camp@harvard.edu>
Date: Mon, 21 Jun 1999 14:22:27 -0400


>In particular, in the arena of software, I think that it is a much
>better idea to try to create competitive open source versions of
>closed source programs (and better yet, leading edge implementations
>of applications that have no analogy in closed source :-) and educate
>users about the value of open source than to attempt to pry open
>closed source ex-post by creating a "right to source code."

It is always The Ideal that the market work and Motherhood is Pure.  In
reality:  Is there  full information,  is everyone is an educated and
empowered consumer?  Attention span (necessary for education) is not going
to become more plentiful.    How can the ideal happen? My interest in that
question is why  I have been reading on this mailing list, and I have been
happy with the SNR.

I do believe that there is some inderstanding among the elites that open
software is something new and something that will change social power
dynamics. I think open software on the desktop allows employees to see when
employers are snooping, and maybe stop it. It allows customers to examine
products. It prevents the creation of unnecessary  friction in information
markets. All the 'good' open source results threaten someone. But I do NOT
believe that this is why the market has failed to embrace open software OR
that it will fail to do so in the long run.  I will not put forward my
absolute belief because I am still observing the debates and considering my
opinion.

>"Prying open existing closed source" is probably a straw man, at least
>possibly not characteristic of Jean's intentions;

But is it an interesting straw man? Suppose we could?  What harm would
result? What would be the worst result? Clearly we have an open system of
government but we don't require all politicians to keep every stickie they
ever posted. What are the critical elements of free software? What elements
of free software are important for transparent markets and governance?

Actually I think Jonathon's proposal is one of the better ones I have seen.
That is why I posted it. Not that I think Disney would ever let it happen.

Any 'right to read source' code could be made in as extreme a level as you
propose (speaking of straw men.)  But only in EM fields are boundary
conditions interesting. In the rest of life its the grey areas.  Suppose
there was a five yr limit, suppose source had to be published to be
property, as described in jonathon's article (not to repeat it here). His
was an interesting proposal. Clearly its flawed in that it does not protect
individuals who would not seek formal protection, and software under
development. What other flaws? What if software was protected under
copyright instead of patent?

-Jean

PS  Thanks for figuring out my agenda, comrade. I needed one with  a little
conspiracy flair.